Audrey Campeau Photo: Wei Zhou
Audrey Campeau is awarded the 2023 L'Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Prize with the support of the Young Academy of Sweden “for innovative experimental research that contributes to important mapping of melting permafrost and its effect on the release of greenhouse gases”.
Audrey Campeau, born July 29, 1987, in Montréal, Canada. PhD 2019 in geosciences at Uppsala University. Postdoctoral fellow in biogeochemistry at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, and McGill University, Montréal, Canada. Upcoming Assistant professorship at the Department of Ecology, Environment and Geosciences (EMG), Umeå University.
Permafrost is defined as ground where the temperatures do not climb above freezing point for at least two consecutive years. In Scandinavia, North America and Russia, permafrost stores twice as much carbon as is currently found in the Earth's atmosphere. It is sometimes called “the sleeping giant” of climate change. Rapid warming in the Northern Hemisphere threatens to irreversibly destabilize this carbon storage and release large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) back into the atmosphere – two very potent greenhouse gases. Thawing permafrost acts as a powerful regulator in the climate system with the potential to accelerate warming at the global scale.
Water in turn, plays a key role in the permafrost carbon cycle, it can mobilize carbon stored in permafrost towards rivers and streams, where it may then be released back to the atmosphere and increase the greenhouse effect. However, water can also act as a barrier, preventing carbon stored deep in the ground from reaching the surface where it can be emitted to the atmosphere. Defining the two opposite roles of water is critical to understand the permafrost carbon-climate feedback.
Audrey's research involves monitoring the carbon and water at the Stordalen mire in Abisko. Stordalen is geologically categorized as a ”palsa bog”, with peat mounds that have a permanently frozen peat and mineral soil core. Continuous monitoring of carbon in soil water is crucial to fully characterize the role of water in mobilizing or storing carbon in thawing permafrost. To examine this interplay, Audrey deploys sensors to continuously measure the CO2 and CH4 gas concentration in the bog's pore water. The seasonally thawing active soil layer in Stordalen reaches approximately 60 cm below the ground surface and increases by 0.7 to 1.3 cm each year. As climate change intensifies thawing in the region, drier and more elevated areas of the peatland are subsiding into wetter sections with potential implications for carbon mobilization through water.
The Stordalen site in Abisko has a remarkable history of scientific research, dating back to 1910. Today Stordalen is part of ”The Integrated Carbon Observation System”, ICOS, which continuously monitors atmospheric exchange of water, energy, and CO2 at 150 locations across Europe.
Audrey's research on the hydrology of the carbon cycle in permafrost peatlands can lead to a better understanding of how terrestrial ecosystems sequester greenhouse gases. Her work contributes to a more informed future with a substantial piece to the puzzle of the ever more critical mapping of climate change impacts worldwide.
Audrey Campeau was born July 29, 1987, in Montréal, Canada. She received a Bachelor of Science in biology from University of Montréal in 2010 and a master’s degree in biology from University of Québec in Montréal in 2012. In 2013 Audrey moved to Sweden to undertake her doctoral studies at the department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University. She defended her PhD thesis, entitled Carbon in boreal streams: isotopic tracing of terrestrial sources in 2019. Her thesis was awarded the Alfort Prize of 2020 for the best PhD thesis in natural geography from the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography. She also received the King Carl XVI Gustaf’s 50th anniversary fund for science, technology, and the environment in 2020. Following her PhD, she was awarded both the FORMAS mobility grant and the Swedish Research Council’s International postdoc grant to lead her postdoctoral research project. Her current research examines the stability of the greenhouse gas store belowground in northern peatlands. She is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå. In 2021, she relocated to McGill University to carry out the international phase of her research project at the department of geography. Throughout her doctoral and postdoctoral work, Audrey also became a mother of three children.